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Peter Riva

View from the Edge

Peter Riva of Gila has offered his many years of columns for this online newspaper. His writings have been published in East Coast newspapers, and he decided to share them with me and you, our readers.

Why US Industry Should Want In On The Fastest Growing Market

Date: August 21, 2012

About 1 trillion, some say 1.2 trillion, people share something in common on this planet: they are Muslims. And Muslims, like their Jewish brethren before them, have cleanliness and hygiene rules covered by a word meaning permissible, okay to use; Kosher for those of the Jewish Faith, Halal for Muslims. But for a decade or more now, the Muslim clerics and merchants have been pushing the use of that word into commerce. In Malaysia, the world’s single most populous Muslim nation, Halal is being applied to not only what people eat but what they put on their skin, the soap and shampoo they use. You see Halal means healthy, more generally.

Yes, there is a sanctioning body of clerics who approve or disapprove Halal processes and products. But in the true tradition of the Arab merchant mentality, the Halal stamp of approval is being sought for all sorts of products now. For devout and not-so-devout Muslims, what this says is that the product is in keeping with their faith and is healthy. Both of which cannot be a bad thing. We have had the Good Housekeeping seal of approval for decades. In the ‘50s people used to swear by it. Halal is one better, it is a moral imperative to safe use. If you use this Halal cosmetic, you can be sure it contains no alcohol, contains no banned animal products and has been tested and is safe. Safe is a very big thing to all consumers, no matter their religion. Pity “FDA Approved” has been so tarnished of late.

Telephones, cars, even apartments are getting the Halal seal of approval. A survey is made, a test of materials, the seller has to meet general moral standards (no child labor, no criminal connections) and the product gets a Halal approval seal. Women in Britain and Pakistan are starting cosmetics firms, one of which has been bought by l’Oreal of Paris.

Think all US companies are lagging behind? Well, here is one who jumped on the bandwagon: Krispy Kreme. “We didn’t have to change any ingredients; we just needed to get our product approved.” Sales’ jump? You bet, in Britain at least. Mercedes have their cars’ components re-tested for Malaysia and the Arabian Peninsula. Costly? Sure, but worth it, long term.

Why? Because the planets fastest-growing religious population is Muslim. That is an expanding market, an increasingly affluent market, one that shops in modern stores as a family, thinking safety and moral purity first. Is Halal, like Kosher, really a guarantee you are doing the right thing? As the old Jewish saying about chicken soup goes, “Couldn’t hurt!”

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